A Pioneer History of Becker County

Chapter XXXVI.

History of Erie Township.

The township of Erie was named by settlers from Buffalo, Erie County, New York, in honor of that same county of Erie.

Erie is, or rather was, a heavily timbered township. In the east half there was considerable pine, some of it the best I ever saw. The other part was timbered with hard and soft wood. Talk about pine ! A little west of where the Otter Tail River bridge is at present, a person could not see the sun in the daytime, the trees were so large and tall. Some of the remaining stumps can give you an idea of what the trees were.

Erie corners on the southwest near the Northern Pacific Railroad, on the northeast not far from the beautiful Height of Land Lake, is joined on the north by Homesville and two miles from Rock Lake, and on the south by Burlington; the Otter Tail River leaving the town in Section 36.

1871 to 1877.

The first squatter was evidently a trapper by the same of McKenzie, on Section 20. The first actual settler, or at least the first rite to build a house was Miles Hanna who settled on the southwest quarter of Section 30 in the summer of 1972. In May, 1873, he and his son worked on the Clearwater drive where he was accidently poisoned by eating the root of the wild parsnip or poison hemlock. He was a soldier of the civil war, and one of the jurymen who tried Bobolink for the murder of the Cook family.

That same fall C. E. Brown built a small log house on the southwest quarter of Section 18. The next year 1873, the following settlers took claims in Erie and built houses on them: James T. Bestick on the northwest quarter of Section 30, Richard Huck on the northeast quarter of Section 30, Kimball Hayden on the northwest quarter of Section 18, A. J. Farnsworth on Section 20 where James Norris afterwards lived and George Neuner took the southwest quarter of Section 30 formerly occupied by Miles Hanna. These were about all the settlers in Erie until 1876 or '77 when the Bufalo people came in and took up all of the western part of the township.

After the Centennial Exposition, in 1876, there were hard times in the East. Common laborors' wages were only seventy-five cents a day, and only three-quarter time at that also a great scarcity of employment.

A man by the name of Whitson C. Darling, (by the way the biggest rascal unhung) a Canadian, who had been to Detroit, Minnesota, came to Buffalo, and hired a German saloon-keeper, Fred Disse. Darling made speeches in English and Disse in the German language. He told us there were car shops at Detroit, four or five big hotels, and lots of work at two dollars a day, also nice farms for sale very cheep. This last was true enough. In some of his lectures he said that the snow fall in Becker County was not more than six inches, and that stock grazed in the open fields until away along in January or February. Well, he caught a good many suckers; he would take their property in Buffalo in exchange for improved farms. Then he was careful to get the Buffalo property safely deeded over but some of the parties are waiting for their farms yet.

We left Buffalo, about twenty two families, on the 5th of May, 1877, by steamboat for Duluth. We were laid up a week in Cleveland on account of the ice. At last we struck Duluth on the 22nd of May, a forsaken and deserted looking place. A few thousand dollars at that time would have bought a good slice of Duluth.

We arrived at Frazee on the 25th of May, 1877. R. L. Frazze was all kindness to us. He gave us the use of a stove and a large frame building for shelter. The next day most of our men went fishing by the sawmill. Well, it was a wonder the fish they all brought in. I am certain that two or three fryingpans were kept constantly in action. On the 26th I walked to Detroit to see the great city. Well, I found on the north side of the railroad track little town, one saloon and two sniall hotels, and on the south side eight or nine houses, a little bank and a store, also a drug and whisky store combined, also the Northern Pacific Hotel, where I found some beds made on the floor with straw, and two men from Buffalo that came on a boat that left ten days after we did. I returned to Frazee that evening and reported. The next day a lot of us left for Detroit. Some of them got into the empty hotel and other empty houses. I rented the Archie McArthur place near Col. Johnston's flour mill at the mouth of the Pelican River. I then looked around for some land and finally got stranded on the northwest quarter of Section 6 in the town of Erie. I will tell of my farming some other time. The grasshoppers had been in the country in 1876, and everything was scarce. Many of the old settlers wanted to sell out, but the most of the newcomers had none or but little money to buy with. Flour was five doIlars a barrel, potatoes 50 to 90 cents a bushel and hard to get at that.

The actual settlers then living in the town of Erie were Kimball Hayden on Section 18, Eli Hodder on Section 30, John Bertram on Section 30, Mlike Soldner on Section 30. Jerome Farr and 0. Sims on Section 34.

Ten or twelve families got disgusted; the women and children were sent back on the Northeni Pacific Railroad the men started on foot for Duluth, and I don't know what ever became of them.

In October, 1877, the following newcomers were settled in Erie: Mrs. Schraska and four children Mr. A Stackelhouse, wife and children; Carl Schnitzer, wife and three children; A. Matzdorf, wife and eight children. In the spring of 1878 there came the following: Jacob Krick, wife and daughter Barbary; Fred Disse, wife and two children; Bartholomew Leithiser, wife and two children; Baptiste Graff and wife; Julien Zeck, wife and two children; James Norris, wife and three children; John Winkler, wife and three children; John Eides; Peter Fisher, wife and six children; M. Smith, wife and five children; John Behnke, wife and one child; and B. Fisher. These were about all the settlers in the town, before it was organized.

As I mentioned before, I located on the northwest quarter of Section 6. A. Matzdorf and myself went out into the town east of Detroit, now Erie, where we found Mr. Kimball Hayden living on Section i8, and he went with us, a mile and a half north to Section 6, where I took my land, and Matzdorf also took the southwest quarter of Section 6. In a few days Matzdorf moved into the "Betty Brown" house on Section 18 until he could build a house of his own. I hired Jake Schafer to help me and built myself a log house. Just before that I cut out a road from the southwest corner of Section 6 to my place.

Erie was first organized into one school district which took in the entire township. The first officers of the district were: Bartholomew Leithiser, director; James Norris, clerk; and Alfred Meili, treasurer, and he has held the oftice of treasurer ever since. Miss May Chapin, now Mrs. John Whittemore, taught the first school in the schoolhouse on Section 18 and Miss Cad Dix, now Mrs. Arthur Blanding, taught the first school in the schoolhouse on Section 29.

Accidents in the town of Erie have been few. Once in a while a settler would fall out of his wagon going home from Detroit, which I suppose was owing to the bad condition of the roads.

The first man hurt otherwise was M. Higgins who broke his leg by the fall of a tree while working for Eli Hodder.

The first death was that of Miles Hanna but he died away from home. The first person to die within the limits of the township was George Neuner who died at his home on Section 30 on the 9th day of January, 1875. He was the father of John and Frank Neuner. The Neuner family came to Becker County on the 29th day of March, 1873, with Mrs. Trimlet and her. William, and they were the first installment of the Buffalo colony.

The first woman that died was Mrs. Louisa Stackelhouse, on the 19th of May, 1878.

In 1880 Louisa Furcht was married to William Fischer. They have today a married daughter and two grandchildren. The first white girl born in Erie was Lizzie Schultz, now Mrs. William Lindner. The first white boy born was William Bertram.

A. H. Wilcox built the first bridge across the Otter Tail River in 1873, out of a state appropriation of about $800, the bridge itself costing $340.

Game was plentiful in those days; bears, deer and wild cats. Grouse were as plentiful then as common chickens are now. A person could hear them drumming around every day. Deer I was certain to meet in the fall of the year whenever I went to get my cattle home, and I could see them most any day around my fifteen acre lake.

Here is a bear story and a true one. in the spring of 1884 a big bear went into my pig pen to get some pork. I had two hogs of about two hundred pounds weight apiece. My wife with the lantern and myself with a Remington rifle chased Mr. bear off but he had one hog killed or so badly hurt that it was dead when we went to take a look in the morning. The bear also made his appearance in the yard. I was going to help Charles Schnitzer break some land, so I put the pig under cover until night. Toward evening Schnitzer and I took the pig and fastened it with a heavy log chain to a small tree, across the road west of the house. We then went in the house to get our shooting sticks, and when we came out Mr. Bear was in full view and by good luck we shot him dead on the spot. He measured about six feet in length, but, holy Ceasar! his meat was just like mush; hardly fit to eat. He was old and had probably just come, out of his winter's sleep. I sold the hide to W. Hayden for sixteen dollars, but never got but two dollars.

There have been no great crimes committed in Erie so far as I know. Chris Weiks while out hunting about eight years ago found the well kept skeleton of a man, near thc southwest corner of Section 19, about twenty-five rods east of the Erie road. There was never any identification, or any case made out of it, but it is my opinion that as the place was a general camping ground for people going to and from Dakota that the man may have been killed in a quarrel, or for his money.

I will tell a little story that happened in 1886, showing the way we used to vote. The Australian system was not then in use. On the morning of the second Tuesday in November, Mr. Jerome Farr came early to vote. He had three sons who were voters and a hired man. These four men had to go away on some urgent campaign business, so Farr took the four tickets, all of the same kind and put them in an envelope, sealed it in, the presence of the Judges and put it into the ballot box. In the evening these ballots were counted the same as the others.

The township of Erie was organized on the 18th day of August, 1878, and the first town election was held on that date at the house of Fred Disse. The first township officers were: Chairman of board of supervisors, Alfred Meile; supervisors, Fred Disse, and James Norris; clerk, Kimball Hayden.

About eight years ago Julius Weirach was accidentally drowned in Long Lake.

The logging dam on the south west quarter of Section 12 known as the Hubbell dam was built by R. L. Frazee, early in the summer of 1876. He cut several hundred thousand feet of pine logs on Section 5 and 6, in the town of Height of Land, and floated them down the river that same summer.

The expenses of the town of Erie for one year, 1880 and 1881 were $74.88. In another year, 1903 and 1904 they were $650.34.


John Frederick Disse.
Mr. Disse was born in Germany on the first day of November, 1819. He immigrated to America in 1847, settling in the then small city of Buffalo, New York, and resided there twenty-seven years, when with a colony of his countrymen, and fellow townsmen he came west a few years after the completion of the Northern Pacific Railroad and settled in Detroit. After living in Detroit for a year or two he removed to his homestead in the town of Erie where he lived on the farm, and has made his home ever since. Mr. Disse was a man of energy and a man of influence, respected in the town in which he resided and wherever he was known.

Mr. Disse died on the 15th day of September, 1890.-Detroit Record.


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